Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Evolution Of Anti-Evolution Legislation


Amazingly, evolutionary biologist Nick Matzke has charted the evolution of anti-evolution (read: creationist) legislation in the US, as reported a few years ago by Slate. Ironically of course, it looks remarkably similar to the tree of life of actual Darwinian evolution. Don't these creationists see the irony? From the article:

To make the chart, Matzke performed a phylogenetic analysis, tracking the language in 65 bills since 2004 that have sought to limit or oppose the teaching of evolution. He found that these bills had been directly reproduced with a few mutations and modifications. For the most part, all employed the seemingly reasonable-sounding strategy of encouraging educators to “teach the controversy.” Shocker: It’s the same technique that has been used in bills that oppose the teaching of climate change.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Atheist Vs Accutheist Dialogue


In an email thread, a person who describes himself as an "accutheist" is debating several other atheists and I on the existence of god. He's a pantheist turned theist who created the term accutheist to mean accurate theist, or one whose idea of god is accurate. I wrote to him about how his logic for his belief in god is weak and filled with dogma and how one cannot see their beliefs as dogma when they believe it. Here is a section of that email below where I summarize what our lengthy 2 and a half week debate was basically like:


You see, no one can tell they're being dogmatic when they sincerely believe what the dogma is about. Then, it appears as "logic" to the dogmatist. 
Example: 
Accutheist: God is defined as everything.
Atheists: That's your definition, most other theists disagree with you.
Accutheist: No here's a wikipedia article saying this.
Atheists: We've checked, wiki doesn't say that. It says pantheists define god as everything, not all theists.
Accutheist: But the Bible says god is everything.
Atheists: No it doesn't, and even if it did, it wouldn't prove god is indeed everything because you cannot define something into existence.
Accutheist: You don't understand logic, God is defined as everything.
Atheists: Again, you're just defining god as everything, you need to prove god is indeed everything.
Accutheist: God is defined as everything. Everything exists. Therefore god exists.
Atheists: THAT DOESN'T PROVE GOD EXISTS, NOR DOES IT PROVE GOD IS EVERYTHING. You cannot just assert god is everything and claim you've showed it is.
Accutheist: This is the definition everyone knows.
Atheists: No it isn't. It is a particular pantheistic definition you are asserting is true.
Accutheist: You don't understand logic, God is defined as everything.
Atheists

When An Atheist Is Moved By Religiously Themed Music


Question: Is there any room for spirituality in naturalism beyond the the kind of Carl Saganesque awe of the universe?

I honestly don't know. But I'm willing to say yes.

Even a naturalist like me can become enamored with music devoted to religious belief and even god. Some of my favorite songs are actually about god.

Just about 8 months ago I really got into Audioslave. I had been a minor fan of Soundgarden back in the day and knew of Chris Cornell's work. My favorite Audioslave song is "Show Me How To Live." It's about asking your creator god how one should live their life. The chorus goes:

Nail in my hand, from my creator.
You gave me life, now show me how to live.
Nail in my hand, from my creator.
You gave me life, now show me how to live.


This goes against nearly everything I believe, but shit, it makes for one awesome song.


The video concept makes no sense to me however, but the song is superb early 2000s alternative rock, powered by one of my favorite guitar players, Tom Morello. I can rock out to music devoted to almost everything I stand against without a problem. We should all be able to do this. We should respect art for art. We should all be able to appreciate the work of things devoted to what we disagree with.

Another band that I just discovered makes amazing music often with spiritual themes. Goat is a "Swedish alternative and experimental fusion music group." One of my favorite songs of theirs is "Talk To God." It's an amazing piece of music that in me at least, invokes the kind of awe and emotion that I think religious people get when they pray and ritualize. Listen to it yourself.


Music has always been the one thing in my life that gives me anything close to spirituality. It opens my mind to seeing the world in new ways. It makes me see the inherent spiritual side of human nature. We've evolved to believe. We've evolved to ritualize things. It's what we do. To deny this is to deny human nature. So I'm searching for a real explanation to that question above, and I haven't found it yet.

But I'll let you know when I do.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Trump And Religion


I love Seth Meyers's A Closer Look and The Check In segments where he breaks down the latest political events in a comedic way. Here he charts president Donald Trump's precarious relationship with religion.


God's Creation Ex Nihilo Time Paradox


In an email debate I'm having with a theist I thought of this argument that proposes a paradox. The paradox applies to the traditional theistic notion of a god that is an eternal, immaterial being that is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. The one major assumption that this argument makes is that god is not beyond logic. That means logic applies to god: god cannot do anything logically impossible or be in a logically impossible state.

The argument:

There are two views of time: eternalism and presentism. On eternalism all moments of time physically exist — past, present, and future; on presentism only the present moment physically exists.


This argument doesn't take a stance on which one is true, but only shows the logical implications for the claim that god created the universe on each view.

If eternalism is true, the universe (as well as everything else) is eternal and cannot by definition have been created in the sense of making something physically exist. All moments physically exist. Hence if eternalism is true, god cannot have created the universe. And also, there'd be no explanation for why this universe vs. another universe, and you'd ultimately get a brute fact.

If presentism is true and god is eternal (has an eternal past) then an infinite amount of moments had to pass before god created the universe. It is logically impossible to traverse an infinite amount of moments, therefore god could never create the universe on presentism.

So regardless of whether eternalism or presentism is true, neither scenario allows for god to create the universe. Hence, the traditional notion of a god who creates the world ex nihilo is impossible.

So how would a theist get out of this dilemma? Well, some say god is timeless prior to creation, or always timeless. But I'd argue that a timeless being cannot by definition do anything: timeless creation is itself logically impossible. They can grant eternalism and say that god creates the universe in the same way we create art and machinery by simply physically preceding it. But on eternalism we don't really create things in the sense of making them physically exist. They already exist. There's just a pattern of atoms before them in the form of humans making them, but it all exists. Now on this view god loses his omnipotence since he's locked into the block universe and could not have been any other way. It also means god has no free will, which few theists are going to accept, as this would negate the traditional notion of god and make it unrecognizable.

So in reality the theist has few realistic options here. They will most likely say that god's ways are beyond our comprehension. A cop out. I can just say the origin of the universe is beyond our comprehension.

What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Debate: Has Political Correctness Gone Too Far?


Well, it turns out that I forgot to upload my debate on political correctness from a few months ago. I thought I had published it, but I guess I forgot when I went on vacation. So, here it is: Has political correctness gone too far? What do you think? Who made the better argument?


Sunday, July 30, 2017

2017 EU TERRORISM REPORT: 95% Of All Terror Related Deaths Due To Jihadism


When you count the number of deaths associated with terrorism in the European Union in 2016, about 95% of it comes from Jihadist related terrorism. This is reported in the 2017 EU Terrorism Report. I used this as evidence in my recent debate against religion along with other stats to show that religion is bar far the single biggest reason causing terrorist related deaths around the world today.

Here are some of the findings reported in the TE-SAT 2017:

  • Arrests: 1002 persons were arrested for terrorist offences in 2016. Most arrests were related to jihadist terrorism, for which the number rose for the third consecutive year: 395 in 2014, 687 in 2015 and 718 in 2016.
  • Victims: Of the 142 victims that died in terrorist attacks, 135 people were killed in jihadist terrorist attacks.
  • Age of terrorists: Almost one-third of the total number of arrestees (291 of 1002) were 25 years old or younger.
  • Explosives: Explosives were used in 40% of the attacks. Even though terrorists use a wide range of readily available weapons, explosive devices continue to be used in terrorist attacks, due to their high impact and symbolic power.
  • Technical trendRegarding the potential use of alternative and more sophisticated improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the current trend in using weaponised unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as a drone, in the Syria/Iraq conflict zone might also inspire other jihadist supporters and increase the use of this kind of tactic.
  • Terrorism financing: 40% of terrorist plots in Europe are believed to be at least partly financed through crime, especially drug dealing, theft, robberies, the sale of counterfeit goods, loan fraud, and burglaries.
  • Women and children: Women have increasingly assumed more operational roles in jihadist terrorism activities, as have minors and young adults. One in four (26%) of the arrestees in 2016 were women, a significant increase compared to 2015 (18%). In addition, the United Kingdom reported an increase in the number of women, families and minors engaging in the conflict in Syria/Iraq, and the Netherlands reported that more 40 children (age 0-12 years) have travelled to Syria and Iraq.
  • Ethno-nationalist and separatist terrorism99 foiled, failed and completed attacks carried out were labelled as ethno-nationalist and separatist terrorism. Dissident Republican groups in Northern Ireland were involved in 76 attacks.
  • Left-wing and anarchist terrorism: The numbers of attacks of left-wing and anarchist terrorists increased in 2016 compared to 2015. 27 attacks were carried out and EU Member State authorities arrested 31 people. Italy, Greece and Spain were the only EU Member States to experience left-wing and anarchist terrorist attacks.
  • Online propaganda: The quantity of Islamic State propaganda decreased in 2016 due to lower production rates and the containment of dissemination. After a peak in mid-2015, the number of new videos produced by the Islamic State slowly decreased. In the second half of 2016, the frequency of new releases dropped even further. As the volume of Islamic State propaganda diminished, al-Qaeda and its affiliates attempted to take advantage of the situation and increased their efforts to reach new audiences.
  • Social networks: Jihadist groups have demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of how social networks operate and have launched well-organised, concerted social media campaigns to recruit followers and to promote or glorify acts of terrorism and violent extremism. The success in restricting terrorist activity online shows the impact of collaborative efforts between law enforcement, such as Europol’s Internet Referral Unit (IRU) and the private sector.

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